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Artificial Intelligence Takes Center Stage Saturday at ‘Sci-Fi to Sci-Fact’ Event

A close up of A.I. on the big screen in Hollywood films

Published on Thursday, September 21, 2023 | 6:18 am

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has become a driving force across scientific disciplines. At Caltech in Pasadena, researchers are working at the leading edge of computation, data science, and machine learning, expanding the capabilities of AI while also examining its effects on society.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, Caltech will host a public event to delve into the science behind AI as depicted on the the ‘big screen’ in popular movies. 

The event, presented by the Caltech Science Exchange,  will take place at the Beckman Auditorium on the Caltech campus.

The event will feature a panel discussion moderated by Latif Nasser, co-host of Radiolab. The panelists will use storytelling from pop culture as a springboard to explore the current state of AI technology and its future trajectory. They will delve into questions such as whether AI can be trusted and how AI users can guard against misinformation and bias.

Among the members of the panel are Anima Anandkumar, Caltech’s Bren Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, who is currently developing AI that would accelerate scientific modeling and design. 

“The scientific method of invention and discovery is still a trial-and-error process, limited by the time and cost of experiments,” Prof. Anandkumar told Pasadena Now. 

“We have recently developed AI methods (neural operators) that are much faster than traditional simulations and lab work for certain kinds of experiments, allowing to only test a smaller selection of promising candidates in the real world. In addition, that same AI technology can be used for AI-based weather forecasting, which can accurately predict weather while being tens of thousands of times faster.”

Georgia Gkioxari, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and Electrical Engineering and William H. Hurt Scholar, another panelist, is doing research around visual perception by AI and wants to build machines “that see like humans do.” 

“You might not realize this, because vision is a natural innate ability you were born with, but our vision system is just majestic,” Prof. Gkioxari said. “Think about the construction workers building the new building on campus. For each one, the input is beans of light (that’s it! light!), and the result is a new, safe building that will house tens of researchers. This is wild! Could machines do the same? This is what the goal of my research is.” 

The other panelists on the event list are Eric Mazumdar, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and Economics; and Yisong Yue, Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences.

The event will provide an opportunity for audience members to engage with AI technology firsthand. Attendees can participate in a Q&A session with the panelists and explore the implications of AI in their own lives.

Caltech said due to overwhelming response, registration for the event is already at capacity, but a standby ticket line available on-site. In case additional tickets become available, they will be announced on Friday, Sept. 22, at 12 p.m., the organizers said. 

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